Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 391–404 | Cite as

Making a Difference with a Discrete Course on Accounting Ethics

  • Steven DellaportasEmail author


Calls for the expansion of ethics education in the business and accounting curricula have resulted in a variety of interventions including additional material on ethical cases, the code of conduct, and the development of new courses devoted to ethical development [Lampe, J.: 1996]. The issue of whether ethics should be taught has been addressed by many authors [see for example: Hanson, K. O.: 1987; Huss, H. F. and D. M. Patterson: 1993; Jones, T. M.: 1988–1989; Kerr, D. S. and L. M. Smith: 1995; Loeb, S. E.: 1988; McDonald, G. M. and G. D. Donleavy: 1995]. The question addressed in this paper is not whether ethics should be taught but whether accounting students can reason more ethically after an intervention based on a discrete and dedicated course on accounting ethics. The findings in this paper indicate that a discrete intervention emphasising dilemma discussion has a positive and significant effect on students’ moral reasoning and development. The data collected from interviews suggest that the salient influences on moral judgement development include: learning theories of ethics particularly Kohlberg’s theory of cognitive moral reasoning and development; peer learning; and moral discourse. The implications from the findings in this study suggest that moral reasoning is responsive to particular types of ethics intervention and educators should carefully plan their attempts to foster moral judgement development.


accounting students ethics education ethics interventions moral discourse moral reasoning and development Kohlberg DIT 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armstrong, M. B. 1987Moral Development and Accounting EducationJournal of Accounting Education52743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, M. B. 1993Ethics and Professionalism in Accounting Education: A Sample CourseJournal of Accounting Education117792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armstrong, M.B. and S. Mintz: 1989, ‘Ethics Education in Accounting: Present Status and Policy Implications’, Association of Government Accountants Journal Summer, 70–76Google Scholar
  4. Ashkanasy, N. M., Windsor, C. A. 1997Personal and Organisational Factors Affecting Auditor Independence: Empirical Evidence and Directions for Future ResearchResearch on Accounting Ethics33548Google Scholar
  5. Blasi, A. 1980Bridging Moral Cognition and Moral Action: A Critical Review of the LiteraturePsychological Bulletin88145JuneCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, J. R., Pant, L. W. 1989Accounting Educators’ Perceptions of Ethics in the CurriculumIssues in Accounting Education47081Google Scholar
  7. Cooke, R., H. Kanter and S. Martens: 1987–1988, ‘The Importance of Ethical Training in an Accounting Education’, The Government Accountants Journal Winter, 64–67Google Scholar
  8. Davison, M. L., Robbins, S. 1978The Reliability and Validity of Objective Indices of Moral DevelopmentApplied Psychological Measurement2391403SummerGoogle Scholar
  9. Dellaportas, S. and P. Leung: 2001, ‘Ethics Education in the Australian Accounting Curricula’, Proceedings of the Accounting Associations of Australia and New Zealand Conference (AAANZ, Auckland)Google Scholar
  10. Dukerich, J. M., Nichols, M. L., Elm, D. R., Vollrath, D. A. 1990Moral Reasoning in Groups: Leaders Make a DifferenceHuman Relations43473493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Earley, C. E., Kelly, P. 2004A Note on Ethics Educational Interventions in an Undergraduate Auditing Course: Is there an Enron Effect?Issues in Accounting Education195362Google Scholar
  12. Engle, T. J. and R. Elam: 1985, ‘The Status of Collegiate Auditing Education’, Issues in Accounting Education, 97–108Google Scholar
  13. Fogarty, T. J. 1992Organizational Socialization in Accounting Firms: A Theoretical Framework and Agenda for Future ResearchAccounting, Organizations and Society17129149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaa, J. C.: 1994, The Ethical Foundations of Public Accounting (CGA-Canada Research Foundation, Vancouver)Google Scholar
  15. Gaa, J. C. 1995Moral Judgment and Moral CognitionResearch on Accounting Ethics1253265Google Scholar
  16. Giacomino, D. E. 1992Ethical Perceptions of Accounting Majors and Other Business Majors: An Empirical StudyAccounting Educators’ Journal4126FallGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilligan, C. 1977In a Different Voice: Women’s Conceptions of the Self and MoralityHarvard Educational Review47457481Google Scholar
  18. Gilligan, C. 1982In a Different VoiceHarvard University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Hanson, K. O.: 1987, ‘What Good Are Ethics Courses?’ Across the Board September, 10–11Google Scholar
  20. Hiltebeitel, K. M., Jones, S. K. 1991Initial Evidence of the Impact of Integrating Ethics into Accounting EducationIssues in Accounting Education6262275Google Scholar
  21. Hoffman, W., Moore, J. M. 1982Result of a Business Ethics Curriculum Survey Conducted by the Center for Business EthicsJournal of Business Ethics18183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huss, H. F., Patterson, D. M. 1993Ethics in Accounting: Values Education Without IndoctrinationJournal of Business Ethics12235243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Icerman, R. D., J. N. Karcher and M. Kennelley: 1991, ‘A Baseline Assessment of Moral Development: Accounting, Other Business and Nonbusiness Students’, Accounting Educators’ Journal (Winter), 46–62Google Scholar
  24. Jeffrey, C. 1993Ethical Development of Accounting Students, Non-Accounting Business Students, and Liberal Arts StudentsIssues in Accounting Education88796SpringGoogle Scholar
  25. Jones, T. M. 1988–1989Ethics Education in Business: Theoretical ConsiderationsThe Organizational Behaviour Teaching Review13118Google Scholar
  26. Karnes, A. and J. Sterner: 1988, ‘The Role of Ethics in Accounting Education’, Accounting Educators’ Journal Fall, 18–31Google Scholar
  27. Kerr, D. S., Smith, L. M. 1995Importance of and Approaches to Incorporating Ethics into the Accounting ClassroomJournal of Business Ethics14987995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kohlberg, L. 1969Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive Developmental Approach to SocializationGoslin, D. A. eds. Handbook of Socialization Theory and ResearchRand McNallyNew York347480Google Scholar
  29. Kohlberg, L. 1971From is to Ought. How to Commit Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away With it in the Study of Moral DevelopmentMischel, T. eds. Cognitive Development and EpistemologyAcademic PressNew York151235Google Scholar
  30. LaGrone, R. M., Welton, R. E., Davis, J. R. 1996Are the Effects of Accounting Ethics Interventions Transitory or Persistent?Journal of Accounting Education14259276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lampe, J. C., Finn, D. W. 1992A Model of Auditors’ Ethical Decision ProcessesAuditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory113359SupplementGoogle Scholar
  32. Lampe, J. 1996The Impact of Ethics in Accounting CurriculaResearch on Accounting Ethics2187220Google Scholar
  33. Langenderfer, H. Q., Rockness, J. W. 1989Integrating Ethics into the Accounting Curriculum: Issues, Problems, and SolutionsIssues in Accounting Education45869SpringGoogle Scholar
  34. Loeb, S. E.: 1988, ‘Teaching Students Accounting Ethics: Some Crucial Issues’, Issues In Accounting Education Fall, 316–329Google Scholar
  35. Loeb, S. E. 1991The Evaluation of “Outcomes” of Accounting Ethics EducationJournal of Business Ethics107784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lovell, A. 1995Moral Reasoning and Moral Atmosphere in the Domain of AccountingAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal86080Google Scholar
  37. McDonald, G. M., Donleavey, G. D. 1995Objections to the Teaching of Business EthicsJournal of Business Ethics14839853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McGeorge, C. 1975Susceptibility to Faking of the Defining Issues Test of Moral DevelopmentDevelopmental Psychology11108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McNair, F., Milam, E. E. 1993Ethics in Accounting Education: What is Really Being DoneJournal of Business Ethics12797807OctoberCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McPhail, K. 2001The Other Objective of Ethics Education: Re-humanising the Accounting Profession – A Study of Ethics Education in Law, Engineering, Medicine and AccountancyJournal of Business Ethics31279299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Milton-Smith, J.: 1996, ‘Forces for Cultural Change: The Findings of The Australian Business Ethics Project’, in K. Woldring (ed.), Business Ethics in Australia and New Zealand Essays and Cases (Thomas Nelson Australia, South Melbourne), pp. 273–287Google Scholar
  42. Nelson, D. R., Obremski, T. E. 1990Promoting Moral Growth Through Intra-Group ParticipationJournal of Business Ethics9731739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pascarella, E. T., Terenzini, P. T. 1991How University Affects StudentsJossey Blass PublishersSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  44. Piper, T. R., Gentile, M. C., Parks, S. D. 1993Can Ethics Be Taught? Perspectives, Challenges, and Approaches at Harvard Business SchoolHarvard Business SchoolBoston, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  45. Pizzolatto, A. B., Bevill, S. 1996Business Ethics: A Classroom Priority?Journal of Business Ethics15153158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ponemon, L. A. 1993The Influence of Ethical Reasoning on Auditors’ Perceptions of Management’s Competence and IntegrityAdvances in Accounting11129Google Scholar
  47. Ponemon, L. A. 1995The Objectivity of Accountants’ Litigation Support JudgementsThe Accounting Review70467488Google Scholar
  48. Ponemon, L. A., Gabhart, D. R. L. 1994Ethical Reasoning Research in the Accounting and Auditing ProfessionsRest, J. R.Narvaez, D. eds. Moral Development in the Professions: Psychology and Applied EthicsLawrence Erlbaum Associates PublishersHillsdale, New Jersey101119Google Scholar
  49. Ponemon, L. A., Glazer, A. 1990Accounting Education and Ethical Development: The Influence of Liberal Learning on Students and Alumni in Accounting PracticeIssues in Accounting Education5195208FallGoogle Scholar
  50. Power, M. K. 1991Educating Accountants: Towards a Critical EthnographyAccounting, Organizations and Society16333353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Puxty, A., Sikka, P., Willmott, H. 1994(Re)forming the Circle: Education, Ethics and Accountancy PracticesAccounting Education37792Google Scholar
  52. Reiter, S. A. 1996The Kohlberg–Gilligan Controversy: Lessons for Accounting Ethics EducationCritical Perspectives on Accounting73354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rest, J. R. 1979Revised Manual for The Defining Issues TestUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  54. Rest, J. R. 1986Moral Development: Advances in Research and TheoryPraegerNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  55. Rest, J. R. 1988Why Does University Promote Development in Moral Judgement?Journal of Moral Education17183194OctoberGoogle Scholar
  56. Rest, J. R., Deemer, D. 1986Life Experiences and Developmental PathwaysRest, J. R. eds. Moral Development: Advances in Research and TheoryPraegerNew York2858Google Scholar
  57. Shaub, M. K. 1994An Analysis of the Association of Traditional Demographic Variables With the Moral Reasoning of Auditing Students and AuditorsJournal of Accounting Education12126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. St. Pierre, K. E., E. S. Nelson and A. L. Gabbin: 1990, ‘A Study of the Ethical Development of Accounting Majors in Relation to Other Business and Nonbusiness Disciplines’, The Accounting Educators’ Journal, 23–35Google Scholar
  59. Thoma, S. J. 1986Estimating Gender Differences in the Comprehension and Preference of Moral IssuesDevelopmental Review6165180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Trevino, L. K. 1986Ethical Decision Making in Organisations: A Person Situation Interactionist ModelAcademy of Management Review11601617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Trevino, L. K. 1992Moral Reasoning and Business Ethics: Implications for Research, Education, and ManagementJournal of Business Ethics11445459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Walker, L. 1984Sex Differences in the Development of Moral Reasoning: A Critical ReviewChild Development55677691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Welton, R. E., LaGrone, M., Davis, J. R. 1994Promoting the Moral Development of Accounting Graduate Students: An Instructional Design and AssessmentAccounting Education33550Google Scholar
  64. Wyer, J. C.: 1987, Report of the National Commission on Fraudulent Financial Reporting: The Potential for Educational Impact (Report of the National Commission on Fraudulent Financial Reporting)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of BallaratVictoriaAustralia

Personalised recommendations